Whether your phone is an extension of yourself or you hardly ever use it, you probably know that it’s important to be cautious when you’re browsing online with a mobile device. If you’re not careful, you may wind up on websites that exploit your personal information and put you at risk. Many mobile users choose to protect themselves by downloading virtual private network or VPN apps which promise to prevent information from getting into the wrong hands. One of these apps, Onavo Protect VPN, was recently removed from the Apple App store when it came to light that Facebook was collecting and storing data from the app, unbeknownst to many users.
A VPN service is designed to protect your information from unauthorized use. VPN applications typically charge users a fee or a paid service rate to block external users from viewing your browsing history and data. A VPN acts as a sort of tunnel through your ISP’s network which prevents people who are outside your network from seeing what you are doing. While these services are effective at blocking outside users, the services themselves still have access to your information, data and browsing history. The app Onavo Protect VPN wasn’t just keeping user information, it was authorizing Facebook to use the data.
The problem with Facebook’s VPN
Facebook’s Onavo Protect VPN was free for users to download and promised to protect user information and secure browsing data. While the app successfully helped many users keep their information safe from users outside of their local network, Facebook collected and used that data for its own gain. As the app’s practices came to light, Facebook attracted negative attention for its use of user data. In response to concerns from Apple about a violation of its developer guidelines, Facebook voluntarily removed the app from the Apple App store. Still, despite the app’s removal from the Apple App store, it’s still available for download on several other platforms including the Google Play store.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Onavo Protect VPN is the fact that users chose to download the app even though its own store description explained how it might collect and use information. While Facebook’s choice to collect and use data from an app that’s supposed to secure user information was certainly an unscrupulous one, it’s important for users to exercise caution with their data to avoid downloading apps that aren’t as secure as they appear to be.
IDMI.Net is committed to helping our clients understand data security and providing them with the information and tools they need to keep their information safe. While we don’t offer VPN services, we can help you find the data security options that you need to feel confident about the safety of your information from prying eyes.